What's on in Surrey this summer?
WITH award-winning attractions and a summer packed full of exciting events, Surrey is out to shake off the misconception that is it nothing more than a commuter county.
From the Olympic cycling road race to rollercoasters and stately homes, there is an array of great things to see and do over the coming months.
But despite boasting days out to rival anywhere in the country, Visit Surrey manager Anna Tomkins said the county still suffers from something of an image problem.
"A lot of people think about us as being a commuter belt or a bit too urban but we have got huge amounts to offer people," she said.
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"We have a number of very big nationally-recognised attractions, from Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park to RHS Garden Wisley and Watts Gallery.
"We also have some great National Trust properties and Loseley Park, which has been in the same family for 500 years.
"These things show we have amazing things in the county and a lot of people don't realise."
As well as the varied visitor attractions, Surrey is also hosting an eclectic line-up of events this summer, from Cranleigh's aviation and automotive festival Wings and Wheels to horse racing and concert nights at Epsom.
Anna says the county's countryside is also a major draw, but she says it is something that many people who live here don't always make the most of.
"If people have a day off, a lot of people drive through the county and head to the coast or somewhere but they don't realise what's on their doorstep," she added.
"One major misconception is that Surrey is an urban county, but it is actually very rural. It is the most wooded county in England and a quarter of it is pure countryside - not agricultural land but beautiful places where you can go walking, cycling and horse riding.
"Places like Box Hill and Newlands Corner are lovely places to visit and are also in easy reach of London.
"We want people to realise that we are not just a county for commuters or posh people in wellingtons, we have something here for everyone."
For our pick of the top events and attractions in Surrey this summer check out our list below.
- With more than 100 aircraft and over 500 vehicles, it is no surprise that Wings and Wheels at Dunsfold Park in Cranleigh is one of the most highly anticipated weekends in the Surrey calendar. Last year 36,000 people flocked to the aviation and automotive event and even more are expected in 2012. Highlights are set to include a parade of record-breaking race cars, a flying show from the Attack Helicopter Display Team, driving demonstrations and a stunt zone. The show is on from 9am to 6pm on August 26 and 27, with tickets on the gate £22 for adults, £5 for children aged five to 15 or £40 for two adults and three children. To book in advance call 01483 542226.
- Back open to the public for a one-off weekend on July 20 to 22 in honour of the Olympic cycling coming to the county, Surrey Open Studios is not to be missed. Featuring the studios of more than 160 artists working across a wide range of media, you are sure to find something to suit your tastes. You can talk to the artists about their work, watch demonstrations and even pick up an original piece created right on your doorstep. Artists taking part include photographer Leonard Abrams, calligrapher Jackie Jackman and sculptor Margaret Samuel. The cost is free, and for more information call 01483 519285.
- The Electric Theatre's July Film festival returns with four critically-acclaimed movies from across the world from July 23 to 27. Starting with iconic filmmaker Werner Herzog's death-row documentary Into the Abyss, the four-day event offers an eclectic selection of cinema.
The other films include Eastern European thriller Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Cuban youth boxing documentary Sons of Cuba and heart-warming Paraguayan road-trip movie Las Acacias. Notes on the films are available at each screening. Screenings start at 7.30pm and tickets are £7 for adults and £5.50 for concessions.
- Combining the thrilling spectacles of horse racing and live music, Epsom's series of concerts are one of the highlights of the summer months. There are two Epsom Live events at Epsom Racecourse left this year, with a Rat Pack Spectacular on July 26 and a Last Night of the Proms-style evening with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on August 2. Starting at 6pm, the night's entertainment includes six races before the concerts kick-off at 9pm. Tickets start from £25 and there are a range of hospitality packages available.
- Offering a family-friendly feel in a unique setting, Weyfest has built up a reputation as one of the most laid-back events on the festival circuit. Based at the Rural Life Centre you can enjoy a varied line-up of top bands alongside a working museum complete with artefacts, craft displays and even a working light railway. This year's acts offer something for people of all ages and tastes with headliners including 70s stars 10cc, 80s favourites Asia and current pop rockers The Hoosiers.
In total there are five different music stages as well as fairground games, stalls, workshops and a kids' zone. The show is from July 31 to September 2 and tickets cost from £20 to £40 per day.
- Nestled within the Alice Holt Forest, Birdworld is one of the largest parks of its type in the country. There are 26 acres to explore, offering everything from massive marabou stork to tiny sunbirds. Other species to look out for include owls, parrots and waterfowl.
Many of these can be seen in the park's daily flying displays and there is also a chance to watch the resident Humboldt penguins being fed at 11am and 3.30pm each day. The park also boasts a farm area, an underwater world and a range of activities for younger visitors on Wednesdays throughout August. There is also an open-air production of Macbeth on July 28. Birdworld is open from 10am 6pm and tickets range from £15.50 for adults to £12.50 for children aged three to six.
- As if its 500 years of royal history, stunning 60 acre gardens and famous maze weren't enough, Hampton Court Palace is offering a fun-packed programme of events this summer. In addition to discovering the magnificent state apartments of Henry VIII and William III you can also enjoy open air cinema and Olympic cycling. The time trials start and finish at the palace and to celebrate the venue is holding Cyclemania, a one-day festival of pedal power to coincide with the race on August 1. The event will include stunt bike demonstrations, vintage cycles and live music. Other things to look out for include a rare chance to see the gardens from the rooftop of the palace itself on July 26 and a chance to watch classic films Singing in the Rain and The Madness of King George with the most breathtaking of backdrops. Hampton Court Palace is open 10am to 6pm daily, with tickets £16.95 for adults, £14.30 for concessions, £8.50 for under-16s and free for under-fives, and £43.46 for a family of two adults and up to six children.
- With more than 25 exhilarating rides and attractions, Thorpe Park is the number one place for thrill-seekers in Surrey. From death-defying rollercoasters to splashtastic water-based rides, there is everything you need for a day of white-knuckle fun. New for 2012 is the terrifying Swarm ride, the UK's first 'winged' rollercoaster. Featuring a 127ft head-first drop under a plane wing, five gut-wrenching inversions, near misses and forces of up to 4.5Gs, this is an adrenalin-junkie's idea of heaven. Over the holidays the park is holding a number of special events including DJ club nights and an extreme sports festival. It also offering a 'Rainy Day Guarantee', where visitors can get 50% off a return trip if it rains continuously for more than an hour during your visit. Thorpe Park is open from 9.30am to 7pm every day, with prices for adults £25.92 when bought in advance online and £43.20 when purchased on the day.
- Whether you are looking for a cultural day out or simply trying to escape the rain, Woking's Lightbox is well worth a visit this summer. Throughout the holidays the award-winning attraction is offering a range of art activities for younger visitors, including stained glass painting, sculpture and drawing. There are two main exhibitions to check out over the coming months. In the Upper Gallery, Celebrating Football features a contemporary collection of paintings, prints and sculptures celebrating every element of the 'beautiful game'. And in the Main Gallery there is a retrospective exhibition looking at the colourful past of the Lion Retail Park in Woking from 1865-1996, from its royal connections to technological advances. The gallery is open 10.30am to 5pm from Tuesday to Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sundays, and entry is free.
- The stunning Loseley Park house and estate date back to the 16th Century, but have arguably never looked better. Guided tours of the house are available and there are five fantastic gardens to explore, from the rose garden - a highlight in summer - to an organic vegetable garden. Loseley Park has a busy summer schedule, with a wide range of events coming up over the next few months. Highlights include the Garden Show from July 20 to 22, and a series of open air concerts from August 16 to 19. The Garden Show features tours and question and answer sessions with top growers, while the live music events offer four fabulous nights of entertainment. Starting with a selection of tribute Acts on August 16, there is jazz from Courtney Pine and Paul Carrack on August 17, a ukulele orchestra the following night and a classical concert on August 19. There is also a live crafts festival from August 3 to 5. All the events in the series are brought to a dramatic finale with a fabulous firework display. The grounds, garden, shop and tearoom are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm, and the house is open for guided tours Tuesday to Thursday and on Sundays from 1-5pm, with the last tour at 4.15pm. House, garden and grounds tickets are £8.50 for adults, £7.50 for concessions and £4 for children aged five to 16.